The Pipeline Drama Drags On / by Yessenia Funes

    Victoria Pickering  / Flickr


Victoria Pickering / Flickr

I don't know about you, but I feel like there's always some pipeline drama going on. Take the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), for instance. The 1,172-mile long pipeline, which is supposed to transport 520,000 barrels of crude oil a day from North Dakota to Illinois, still has its fair share of drama going on.

Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), its developer (and the company responsible for hiring a private security firm that used counterterrorism and hyper-surveillance to monitor and intentionally suppress the so-called "water protector" movement, as The Intercept exposed), filed a federal lawsuit (Energy Transfer Equity LP v. Greenpeace International, 17-cv-173, U.S. District Court, District of North Dakota) against Greenpeace and other environmental groups yesterday (Aug. 22). BankTrack and Earth First! are the only two named defendants in the press release.

Essentially, ETP is alleging that the accused environmental groups spread lies about ETP and its DAPL and that that led to the company spending at least $300 million more in construction than it should have, according to NPR. (FYI: The project was never cheap to begin with. It was set to cost $3.8 billion.)

Anyway, ETP is also alleging that the #NoDAPL "misinformation campaign" was "alarmist" and "sensational." The lawsuit is challenging the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's claims that the pipeline encroached on tribal treaty lands, that it destroyed sacred sites, that there was no consultation and that its developers used excessive and illegal force against protestors. 

What's most interesting though is the law firm on this case: Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP. 🤔 Its managing partner is Marc Kasowitz, President Donald Trump's personal attorney. Smell fishy?

The pipeline, after all, had hit a serious halt before Trump entered the White House. Former President Barack Obama had essentially stopped it until further environmental review. Then, Trump came through and was all like, "Nah." And now his attorney's firm is handling it? Weird, to say the least.

In response, Greenpeace USA General Counsel Tom Wetterer said, in an online statement:

This is the second consecutive year Donald Trump’s go-to attorneys at the Kasowitz law firm have filed a meritless lawsuit against Greenpeace. They are apparently trying to market themselves as corporate mercenaries willing to abuse the legal system to silence legitimate advocacy work.

The pipeline is now being pulled into all types of litigation because the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's own lawsuit continues. The judge ordered further environmental review, echoing the previous administration, but it still remains unknown if he'll pause pipeline operations during that process. (To learn more about the Standing Rock lawsuit, check out this piece I recently did with YES! Magazine.) 

Funny enough, the federal government (i.e., the Army Corps of Engineers) asked U.S. District Judge James Boasberg to let pipeline operations continue during said environmental review, reported The Hill. Again, smells pretty fucking fishy to me, man.

At least the courts appear to be on a mission to make sure pipelines are being properly reviewed. An appeals court ruled yesterday that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission failed to fully consider the Southeast Market Pipelines Project's climate impact when the commission approved the project last year, reports InsideClimate News. Pipelines transport fuel to power plants where the fuel burns, which releases greenhouse gases that capture more heat and worsen climate change. These emissions could be methane; they could be carbon dioxide. Just depends on what fossil fuel the pipeline is moving and, subsequently, burning.

The court is now requiring that the commission redo its analysis—even though some of the project's pipelines (like the Sabal Trail running from Alabama to Florida) are already operating. In total, the project runs from Ohio to Florida.

As Phil McKenna notes for InsideClimate News, the National Environmental Policy Act requires that greenhouse gas emissions and climate change be considered in environmental analyses. Earlier this month, a U.S. district court judge rejected the expansion of a coal mine in Montana on the same grounds. #winning

The courts seem to be on board with protecting the planet and the health of those who depend on it. Now what about our representatives?